By Jacob Bourne
In 2014 Menlo Park City Council set the goal of updating the General Plan from its 1994 amendment to reflect the current land use and transportation realities of the city. The project, Connect Menlo, seeks to create a comprehensive plan update focusing on land use and mobility for the M-2 industrial zoning area. On September 12, the Planning Commission discussed the recently released Draft Fiscal Impact Analysis for the plan and zoning updates. No action on the analysis was required or taken by the Commission, and though the meeting was open to public comments, no community members offered feedback.[contextly_sidebar id=”6ieoIcS6hWMyyKHPle9vBsBQtiiys1KT”]“As part of Connect Menlo’s process a fiscal analysis was prepared,” explained Deanna Chow, principal planner, Menlo Park. “The purpose of an FIA is to identify the potential changes in revenue and expenditures and the net fiscal impacts to the City and other special districts as a result of potential development that could occur from the proposed project. The FIA is an informational tool for the decision makers and for the public.”
The overarching goal of Connect Menlo is to update land use guidelines and traffic circulation aspects of the General Plan. It’s also proposing to update the M-2 area by potentially dividing it into three specific zoning districts. The M-2 area is a section on the northeastern end of the city bounded by Highway 101, Marsh Road, the Bayfront Expressway, and University Avenue. Facebook’s main campus at 1 Hacker Way is located within the M-2 zone in the vicinity of Bedwell Bayfront Park and just north of East Palo Alto. Greenhouse gas reduction strategies and incorporating a transportation network that promotes safe travel for all, including pedestrians and cyclists, are also key aspects of the project.
The potential changes under Connect Menlo would allow for greater development opportunities than the current General Plan. If approved, the M-2 and other areas could gain an additional 5,500 housing units, up to four million square feet of non-residential space, and 425 hotel rooms. These changes could draw 14,150 new residents and 9,900 employees to the area.
The Draft Fiscal Impact Analysis for Connect Menlo was prepared by a BAE Urban Economics team hired by the City. Analysts found that the project as described would generate revenue for the General Fund. One of the project’s scenarios could generate $20.1 million per year by 2040 according to the analysis.
In terms of expenditures, a rise in population due to the addition of housing units will likely increase spending on City services. By 2040 the project could result in over $11 million in annual expenditures, leading analysts to conclude that the project would offer a net revenue for the City. The FIA also studied potential impacts to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District and five local school districts.
“The methodology on a basic level is to estimate the revenue that the project would generate and also the costs that would be associated with serving the new development, in order to come up with a net fiscal impact to each of these jurisdictions,” offered Stephanie Hagar, vice president, BAE Urban Economics. “In general we relied on conservative assumptions to estimate revenues in order to avoid overstating the revenue generation by the project, and also to avoid understating the potential costs that would be associated with serving the new development.”
Over 60 meetings and events have been held for Connect Menlo since 2014, including recent community meetings on September 1 and 7. According to Arlinda Heineck, Menlo Park community development director, the Final EIR, Land Use and Circulation Element, and new zoning, will likely be released for final review by the Planning Commission in October, and City Council in November or December. The documents could be adopted by the end of this year. A special Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for October 19 regarding the project.